European Union wheat production prospects for 2023 will be undermined by an easing in sowings, but face a potential boost from a yield recovery from this year’s disappointing levels, Strategie Grains said.

The French-based analysis group, in its first forecast for the bloc’s soft wheat sowings for the 2023 harvest, pegged them at 21.67m hectares, a fall of some 110,000 hectares year on year.

The forecast follows an estimate from Strategie Grains that EU rapeseed sowings – which like wheat, is mainly autumn seeded in the bloc, and a major rival in the planting programme – will expand by some 200,000 hectares year on year to a five-year high of 6.0m hectares.

It is also in line with an International Grains Council forecast that EU wheat area for 2023-24 will decrease modestly year on year.

‘Potential fertilizer shortages’

However, Strategie Grains said that it was reasonable for investors to assume EU farmers would achieve better yields in 2023 than the drought-dented levels of this year – providing fertilizer supplies proved adequate and affordable.

“Potential fertilizer shortages will continue to create additional uncertainties in terms of yields from the 2023 crop in the EU,” the group said.

It also highlighted the potential for a knock-on effect on the European, and global, grain markets from the “significant element of weakness” in supplies fostered by “the expected low areas for cereals… in Ukraine” for next year’s harvest.

Ukraine’s wheat area for 2023-24 is expected to come in 30% shy of that in 2021-22, the last season unmarred by war.

‘Doing well’

Strategie Grains’ assessment comes towards the end of a winter grains sowings campaign which the group acknowledged has been “doing well in most of the EU, although there are problems in Spain, Bulgaria and Romania with lack of rain”.

In France, the EU’s top grain producer, soft wheat seedlings had as of November 7 emerged on about 76% of the expected area, up from a 61% figure a year ago and six days ahead of the five-year average development pace, according to FranceAgriMer.

For barley, Strategie Grains forecast combined area of winter and spring sowings for the 2023 harvest at 10.38m hectares, up by 40,000 hectares year on year.

Corn area for 2023 was forecast at 8.84m hectares, down from 8.9m hectares harvested this year.